Oppenheimer, Joseph

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OPPENHEIMER, JOSEPH (1876–1966), German impressionist painter born in Wuerzburg, Bavaria. In 1891 he started his artistic training in Munich, first at the private school of Conrad Fehr and then from 1893 to 1895 at the Munich Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He traveled to Italy in 1895 and in Rome painted his first impressionist painting, Horses and Carriage on the Monte Pincio (Private Collection).

After his return to Munich, in 1896, he set up his studio in the domicile of the archaeologist Adolf Furtwaengler and in 1899 became a member of the German secessionist movement. From then on he earned a reputation as a modern portrait painter in an impressionist style related to Max *Liebermann, and he exhibited on a regular base. After several journeys, among them a six-month stay in New York and a trip to England, he settled in Berlin in 1902 and exhibited at the Hamburg art gallery of Paul Cassirer, who was associated with the Berliner Secession and who arranged various portrait commissions for Oppenheimer. From 1902 to 1908 Oppenheimer lived in England, where Julius Spier also helped him obtain commissions. In addition he became a member of the Chelsea Arts Club. In 1908 he married Fanny Sternfeld and in the same year they returned to Berlin. He continued to work as a portrait painter also after World War i and accepted hundreds of commissions in Germany and abroad. His models were from the upper class and from the cultural and intellectual elite, such as Aby Warburg, Max J. Friedlaender, Adolf Harnack, Albert Einstein, Paul Cassirer, and Max Liebermann among others. In addition, he designed the covers of glossy magazines in Germany, where several of his pleinair studies were reproduced.

In 1933 Oppenheimer and his family immigrated to London, where he obtained British citizenship in 1939 and could resume his work as portraitist and designer of covers for magazines after World War ii. From 1934 to 1965 he was a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in London, where he produced works adapted to the British impressionist style that were accepted for exhibition on a regular base. Owing to World War ii many of Oppenheimer's paintings disappeared or were destroyed. Some of them, among them paintings of Wuerzburg, are exhibited, but the vast majority of his paintings are in private collections.


M. Lauter (ed.), Joseph Oppenheimer (18761966). Leben und Werk, mit Beitraegen von Beate Reese und Hélène Sicotte (1998; with catalogue raisonné).

[Jihan Radjai-Ordoubadi (2nd ed.)]